Ilves Emphasizes Humility, Responsibility to Europe

By Kristopher Rikken (October 10, 2011)

Addressing Parliament after being sworn in for his second term, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves touched on a number of current events, reminding legislators that helping others is a necessity, especially in an EU that is currently paying the bills for much of Estonia’s infrastructure development.

Ilves said on October 10 it was “logical” that some felt it was unfair that Estonia with its penchant for fiscal conservatism and low corruption had to pitch in to save Greece. Parliament approved the country’s share of the EFSF guarantees only last week.

But Ilves said that more far-sightedness was in order.

“Above all, we have the responsibility to rise above emotions, weigh the consequences of all possible options and make the rational decision,” he said.

He compared the situation to 2008, when the Lehman Brothers crisis set off a chain reaction that spread throughout the world’s economy.

Ilves also injected a note of national self-deprecation, saying the country should not be so presumptuous to think it is some sort of international household word for solid finances.

“Yet we have shown that our way of dealing with a similar crisis has produced results,” he said.

Ilves, who was re-elected for another five-year term, also sounded a reminder that Estonia is not yet a net payer into the EU system. “In 2012 one in six euros in the Estonian state budget comes from the EU,” he said.

“The construction of next year’s important and large-scale infrastructure will be 80 percent paid for by the EU. Figuratively speaking, every worker toiling on Estonian state construction sites gets paid for Monday to Thursday from Brussels and only on Friday from Tallinn.”

Ilves mentioned emigration, saying that he was concerned that besides money, some may leave because they perceive Estonia as being “intolerant, uncaring or ill-tempered.”

Harking back to his address from five years ago, he said that his goal of making life in Estonia in 2011 “as if the occupation had never existed” would not be achieved in five or even ten years.

“But I feel that we have preeminently moved in the right direction as a state, people and society. There has been no slipping back, in spite of it all, we have become more secure and better. There is less corruption, society is stronger and there is less empty quarreling.”

Besides his pledges to defend the constitutional order in his oath, Ilves pledged to stand for the “freedom to choose who we become.” “We are free to be compassionate and generous, because no one forbids us this. We have the freedom to be big of heart.”